Feb 26, 2010

An inquiry into an investigation of an investigation of a church

The Church of Scientology dislikes the St. Petersburg Times. And pretty much every other news outlet that looks too closely at its operations. But especially the Times.

And, so, church officials hired a couple of well-respected journalists to investigate the Times' 2009 coverage of the church. The well-respected journalists hired a well-respected editor, Missouri journalism professor Steve Weinberg, to oversee the project (Weinberg distances himself from the church here). The report is now complete and in the hands of the church, which is supposed to either release it whole and unedited, or not at all.

Much debate has focused on whether journalists should hire themselves out to push back against the work of other journalists. In defending their work, the church's investigative team says they maintained editorial independence and followed strict ethical guidelines.

But the real test of whether this project serves as journalism will be in how the report is used. Already, the church appears to be making selective use of the findings in a public-relations assault. Here's part of a statement from Weinberg and team:
During an interview with the Washington Post, Scientology spokesman Tommy Davis discussed a portion of the findings of our independent review, and, in doing so, did not accurately portray the full scope of our work. We have urged the church to release the complete report of that review.

Because our full report has not been released, any characterization of our work is premature and purely speculative.

Why would anyone expect the church to act like a newsroom and disseminate the findings in a fair and impartial manner? The project is and always was about PR.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"Because our full report has not been released, any characterization of our work is premature and purely speculative."

Um, no, not premature and speculative. These jerks let themselves were hired by Scientologists to do their dirty work on Times reporters who were just doing their jobs and now try to act innocent when the Scientologists cherry pick information to use for their own purposes.

Really bad form, nauseating sell-out. Chances are they'll never find respectable jobs in journalism again - and they really shouldn't be able to.